Mystery of Meghan’s final Instagram post
And just like that, they were gone. Overnight, Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared their final post on Instagram, bidding farewell to their "community" after their less than two-year run as the royal family's most glittering and incendiary stars.
There is a particular, sad symmetry to their last social media offering given it comes nearly a year to the day they launched their @SussexRoyal account on April 2nd, 2019. It is astonishing to think it has been basically a scant 365 days since the duo debuted their stand-alone social media presence with such gusto and optimism as they sought to establish their own identity and brand separate from that of William and Kate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
In years gone by, the tone and style of today's Sussex closing missive as HRHs might have raised Palace eyebrows given it is far more Tony Robbins-speak than reserved regal enunciation. Using their signature blue tile background and showcasing their royal crest one last time, they thanked their 11.3 million followers: "for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You've been great!"
In the 178-word post, they go on to signal quite what the coming days and weeks will hold for the newly emancipated couple: Essentially, nada, at least publicly.
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As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile. Yet we are confident that every human being has the potential and opportunity to make a difference—as seen now across the globe, in our families, our communities and those on the front line—together we can lift each other up to realise the fullness of that promise. What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic. As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute. While you may not see us here, the work continues. Thank you to this community - for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great! Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another. Harry and Meghan
"As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute," they wrote. "While you may not see us here, the work continues."
This was classic Harry and Meghan: Upbeat, direct and inherently personal, one part Deepak Chopra, two parts Goop.
What is marked about this statement, however, is what it does not include. There is not one single mention of or inclusion of the words "the Queen" or any reflection on their time serving her. Nor is there any mention of Harry and Meghan's ties to the Commonwealth, despite being President and Vice-President respectively of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust along with Harry having been the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador and Meghan having been appointed the patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
The total absence of any self-reflection about their royal stretch, even if it was to reference the challenges of their tenure, is rather quite odd. Usually even the most sulky of employees can muster up some sort of half-hearted goodbye to their former boss and workmates on their way out the door.
Yet at this historic juncture, there is not even the briefest of acknowledgments of the 1000-year-old institution or the fact that they are severing official ties from this ancient beast.
In fact, if you read the statement and did not know who "Harry and Meghan" (as they sign off) are, or the couple's complicated, tumultuous recent history, the entire thing could be a group email sent by a mid-level marketing manager trying to placate a nervous workforce with a grab bag of cheery platitudes and a dearth of actual details.
I wonder how the Queen must have felt reading this given her grandson and granddaughter-in-law found the time to thank their vast online army of fans but did not even pay the vaguest of lacklustre tributes to the institution of the monarchy.
What makes all of this even more surprising is that Harry is evidently driven by a keen sense of duty. This is a man who argued and fought to be sent to the frontline alongside his squadron and served two-terms in Afghanistan. Only in February he said in a speech that "it is a great honour to serve my country and the Queen".
While Harry and Meghan might be resolutely "focusing" on this "new chapter" with all the positivity of Gwyneth Paltrow after a juice cleanse, they face a complicated, deeply uncertain future.
Beyond the practical considerations (such as how to become "financially independent" as the world teeters on the edge of the greatest economic crisis in nearly a century) the duo face a whopping PR challenge. Right now, or the coming weeks, should have been the time they debuted with much fanfare whatever big ideas and world-changing projects they have been busy beavering away on in Canada.
Instead they, like billions of other people, are stuck indoors plumbing the depths of the Netflix catalogue and trying to make sense of this unfolding, horrifying catastrophe.
Thus they face a particularly tricky predicament. If they stay out of public view for the next little while and do nothing but take to Instagram occasionally, their brand as go-getting humanitarians will founder. Yet at the same time, now is certainly not the moment for a high-profile charity launch replete with all the bells and whistles.
At stake here is their relevance. Consider, while they are still working with their patronages back in the UK, their only other ongoing charity project is Travelyst. (The Invictus Games have been postponed until 2021.) With so much of the world locked down right now, worrying about the carbon emissions of travel is hardly a top priority.
Without a clear cause to align themselves to, that is appropriate right now and without an obvious role for them to play in this unfolding horror, they face sliding into comparative obscurity for this next period of time.
Similarly, they face the challenge of not appearing woefully out of step with their supporters. Last week it was revealed that they had made a last minute dash by private jet from Canada to LA to take up residence in a home, allegedly, in Hollywood. Beyond why they would leave a secluded island to move to a city with nearly 2,500 cases of COVID-19, as so much of the world suffers right now this sort of reminder of their wealth and privilege, fairly or not, undermines their "call me Harry/Meghan" chummy familiarity.
There is no question that today is a sad day, the end of what could have - and should have - been a long glittering chapter for the Queen, the royal family and Harry and Meghan. Instead, they are ensconced in what is most likely a luxurious house in the Golden State while his father recovers from coronavirus thousands of kilometres away and the world adjusts to this new, terrible reality. Surely if there was ever a time for reaching out to family it is now.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's largest media sites.
Originally published as Mystery of Meghan's final Instagram post